ERIC JAMES / ENDCASTLE

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EndCastle: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / Spotify

1. Take me through that luscious rig of yours.

Guitar: 2014 Gibson Firebird

Pedals: Dunlop 535q Multi-Wah > EarthQuaker Devices BitCommander > ToneBone Hot British > ZVEX Box of Rock > Boss RV5 Reverb > Boss DD7 > TC Electronic Flashback > TSVG Emperor > Mad Professor Ruby Red Booster > TC Electronic Spark Boost > TC Electronic Poly Tune

Amp: Music Man RD100

Cabinet: Hand built by my buddy, Frank Andrews. It has 2 12″ Warehouse speakers.

I have a lot of distortion options on my set up and they all sound different. I usually use two of them at the same time. I can go from Skynyrd-style distortion to Dimebag Darrell distortion really quick. I recently picked up the BitCommander, which makes some incredible sounds. It sounds like a synth at times. I haven’t found a use in any of our songs for it but I cant wait to use it in one. For now I just use it for sound effects. I love my TC Electronic Poly Tuner. A lot of people don’t like the idea of it or are scared of it or say it doesn’t work but I have had lots of success. My old boss TU2 I couldn’t see during daytime shows at all, I think they fixed that on the TU3 though. My Poly Tuner pedal is so bright and clear its unbeatable, and once you get used to it, you just strum all the strings at once and it tells you if one is sharp or flat, it makes quick work of tuning in between songs or even during.

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2. Diggin’ the assortment of pedals on the board: I noticed you have two delays on your board — what is each for and why did you choose those two to use?

I use the Boss DD7 for just basic delay use. It has a built-in tap tempo that I’ll use. It is a powerhouse delay that I under-utilize however, only because it is a pain to get down on the floor and mess with the dials during a show. I like to just set it and forget it.

The Flashback delay is also a powerhouse – I wish I had bought the big boy one – the Flashback X4, which has presets and whatever else you need. I use the Flashback for modulated delays. It has a mode for Reverse which does exactly what it says, believe it or not. I go back and forth between the Reverse and the Lo-fi mode. The Lo-fi also does what the name says, it roughens up the sound of the delays and sounds like an old low-fi Beck cassette.

More often than not, I have both the DD7 and the Flashback going at the same time. It works great when clean or distorted. Most of the times I’ll use it clean with the DD7 on and the Flashback delay set on reverse and the notes ring out with a ghostly delay that creeps up back on the note again.

3. Same question with the boosters: Why use both a Ruby Red and a Spark?

The Spark has been on my set up for a few years now and will never leave. It’s a great little boost that I can use for solos to bring my level up a bit. A nice feature with the Spark is that you can either click it on and click it off like a normal pedal, or if you hold your foot down on the switch – it activates – and when you take your foot off, it will turn off right away, so it helps prevent my treestump feet from tripping up on stage, which still happens often.

The Ruby Red is kind of on loan to me from Jesse [Kling, guitarist in Dead Feather Moon]. I use it as a treble boost. I don’t run any EQ pedals and so my Firebird can at times sound more like a Crow when I don’t have any pedals going — so this adds a nice treble boost. It’s a night-and-day difference really and since I received it, I have had it turned on pretty much non stop. I used it in the studio on two tracks recently, and it is the only pedal in use I think for one of the songs.

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4. I remember talking with you about your guitars one time and you mentioned the Firebird was like the worst guitar ever built. But you’ve got it in your rig — why is that?

I have a weird relationship with the Firebird — anyone who has played in a band with me knows it. They are great guitars, but mine was a lemon, and Gibson was no help. Around the time I purchased my guitar, I noticed that a few of my guitar heroes were quietly switching from Gibson. Zakk Wylde, for example, who is known for his massive Gibson collection and signature Gibson guitars, all of a sudden cut ties with them and launched his own brand. Now as we all know, Gibson is dealing with bankruptcy issues. I feel like it is because their quality has gone way down.

I wanted a Firebird ever since seeing the Def Leppard “Hysteria” album tour videos as a kid; 15 years later I finally got one. I should have backed away from the deal when the ‘Big Guitar Store’ employee couldn’t figure out how to tune it, nearly twisting the wrong end of the tuner off, and wouldn’t take my advice of turning the tuning knobs on the back of the head stock. Shortly down the road, it would have tuning, electrical, and cosmetic issues. As soon as I’d fix a problem, another would pop up. I want to point out that the Steinberger Tuners they used for only about one year on the Firebird are both incredible and also the worst thing to go on a Gibson. If one breaks, which they do, you cant just buy one you have to buy the whole pack of 6. Steinberger went out of business and Gibson would not tell me what I was supposed to do with my broken tuner. I had to look on eBay dozens of times per day because apparently it was in high demand, but there weren’t many out there. If it did pop up it would be a pack of 6 for almost $500. I got super lucky one day, months later, and only had to pay $50.

I remember one night throwing my guitar against a tree at an outdoor party that my cover band played, it has honestly played better since that night. I’ll occasionally go back and forth between it and my Telecaster and my SG, but the Firebird fits on me much better and Ill never get rid of it.

5. Love the cabinet you’re playing through: Looks like one of those old Marshall 4×12” tall boys. Surely it must be a pain to haul that around — why not play a smaller combo and mic it live?

It looks massive, but really isn’t too bad. My buddy Frank, who I used to play with (he now plays in SD’s best Black Crowes tribute band The Black Crowes Revival) built it for me. It has two 12″ Warehouse speakers. Really nothing special inside there but it makes a good sound. The top speaker is angled up to my head so I can hear it at shows where we don’t have monitors. I have often thought about a smaller combo and I used to have smaller combos but I like that it is tall so it’s easy for me to turn knobs during the show or more importantly set my beer on top of it so I don’t have to bend down and pick it up.

I really do think there is a sound benefit – although during shows the mic might not pick that up. In practice, it sounds great. Jason from The Bad Vibes has a small Music Man combo that sounds huge however. Also having smaller amps on stage with me makes me feel like I’m in Spinal Tap during the Stonehenge scene — I’m always stepping on whatever is rolling around on stage, so that also explains the big tall cabinet.

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6. I also had a Music Man head for a while and loved it. Where’d you find yours? What do you like about it? Have you had any problems with it, being vintage and all?

I found mine at Moze Guitars in La Mesa. I played Kyle Areford’s [from The Paragraphs, Dead Feather Moon] Music Man and knew I had to copy him and get my own. It took a long time to find but it popped up on the Moze Instagram and I drove down the next day and bought it. I like it so much because I am able to get a tight solid distortion out of it if I want, or I can switch to clean channel and have a warm clean sound with as much built-in reverb as I want. It sounds like a mix of Fender and Marshall to my ears. I think my amp was built in the early ‘80s. The only problem I have had is with the foot switch, but it’s aftermarket so it’s not the amps fault. It’s built like a tank. Kyle and I have had to take his apart to fix it and it took both of us to lift the guts up and put them back in the head.

7. Fun question: If a pedal manufacturer approached you and wanted to build a signature Eric James pedal — what brand would you want it to be, what features would it have, what would you name it, and why?

You’re right, that is a fun question. I don’t know if this would even sound good, but maybe EarthQuaker Devices will read this and be inspired: I want to be able to have a delay/tremolo thing where you can use an expression to slow the speed of it down or speed it up. I have the MiniMoog MF Tremolo that has the expression pedal so you can pretty much do what I described, and I’ve tried it with delays, but I just can’t come close to the sound I’m trying to make. So that would be cool, but realistically if the day ever came to make my own signature ERJ pedal, it would just be a big box with a bunch of lights on it, no effects or anything — just the little led lights all over it that turn on and off because I love lights.

8. What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned and why? Conversely, what’s the best?

The only thing that comes to mind is the Boss Metal Zone. I guess it has its use somewhere, and everyone likes their sounds but on my set up it sounded like garbage. I ended up selling it to a guy who collected them and had many Metal Zones for some reason.

I think my Music Man RD100 head is the best amp I’ve owned. Its built like a tank. It gets super loud but I am usually able to get a good sound at lower volume.

Not the best — but my favorite piece of gear is my Boss RV5 Digital Reverb. I bought it from Steve Stevens of Billy Idol. It makes some great hall reverb that doesn’t sound like anything an amp reverb could do. I use it often now in our songs.

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9. Wait…you bought a pedal from Steve Stevens? WTF?

[haha] The story isn’t as fun [as you’d think]. Steve Stevens is one of my most influential musicians. Occasionally he sells his personal gear on his website (his Premier Guitar Rig Rundown video is incredible by the way). I was lucky enough to catch one of his sales and that’s how I got it. He autographed it to me and included a Steve Stevens playing card and some of his signature picks with his ray gun logo. I also hit him up one day asking a question about how he recorded one of his guitar tracks and he wrote right back — he’s a great guy!

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10. That’s straight up awesome. Speaking of awesome — you’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re always scoping out what everyone’s using: Who do you think has the most awesome gear?

I can’t remember the last time that I went to a show and didn’t come home wanting to buy new gear because of whoever played that night. There’s no shortage of great guitar setups and guitar players in San Diego or traveling through on tour.

Jesse, from Dead Feather Moon, has my favorite sound. Between his gear and his playing style, he definitely has a unique sound that really comes to life when he plays live. He’s a wizard when it comes to his gear. Also Daniel “Cuervo” Cervantes from Mrs. Henry and 10 other bands. I remember one night being blown away at one of their Belly Up shows at how great his sound was, and he explained it was just his cheap Acoustic amp. [Read Cervantes’ own Gear and Loathing feature here to find out more about his rig]

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(Photo by Moses Namkung)

11. If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates — what would you buy, who would you get it for, and why?

Dennis, our frontman/singer/guitar player extraordinaire, is one of the craziest, most expressive guitar players and songwriters I’ve ever met. I would get the guy who made Matt Bellamy’s crazy guitars [Hugh Manson, from Manson Guitar Works] with the built-in midi pad and what not, and have him make Dennis something even better. Also I’d have to get him a Theremin because he knows how to use those things.

12. What does EndCastle have coming up?

We’re stoked to be playing with Bosswitch and M. Crane at The Merrow on Thursday, July 26th. After that, we are playing on August 18th at Manhattan Bar and August 19th at Aztec Brewery. We are slowly recording songs at Emerald Age Recording, so we will have a few more songs up on our Spotify page soon. We’re working on new artwork and merch; I’d really like to make some EndCastle pogs.

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JAMES ALBERS / BABYDOLL WARRIORS

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Babydoll Warriors: Facebook / Instagram

Whoa: Walk me through that rig, buddy.

My main guitar for Babydoll Warriors is Goldie. It came together once Emily Connell (saxophonist) asked me to be in her soon-to-be band. I started following her on Instagram right after her plush album covers were put up for an art show at Fall Brewing, so I went to meet her and her husband (and now-Babydoll Warrior drummer) after a year of being up. A few days later, after adding me on Facebook, she messaged me about joining her band she was putting together with members of The Goldettes and Chinese Rocks. I had been out of the gigging band-scene for a while so I said “sure.” Multiple nerdy conversations later about cool bands, cult classic movies, and craft-making, and I knew I wanted to do something different than I had with prior bands. Emily’s favorite color is gold (gold is a color, right?) so that got me thinking — I should go over the top and have a full rig of gold — gold tolexed amp, only gold pedals (this posed to be a difficulty to find later) and, of course, a gold guitar — but not any gold off-the-shelf-guitar – it had to be obnoxiously gold. I have been building guitar bodies for myself and selling them to the DIY community for the past 10 years so building a Strat was as simple as getting 3 feet of 8/4 alder at the lumber yard, cutting and sanding, and finishing in some gold lacquer with gold flake.

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Goldie is based off my #1 Strat, which oddly serves as a backup to Goldie. The sunburst Strat was made for me by Fred Marotta at the Repair Zone back in 1997-ish. I had expressed interest in learning the craft of guitar repair and he agreed to let me “intern” and show me how to do setups and basic repair stuff. In the end, he rewarded all my hard work with a custom Strat that was my ode to SRV and a nod to Hendrix with the bigger headstock. Both #1 and Goldie are built exactly the same — 21-fret maple/rosewood Allparts neck with the ‘70s headstock, bullet trussrod, and 7.25″ fingerboard radius. I found recently after using #1 for a while with Brodeeva and Secret Seven that I like fatter necks and rounder fingerboards. They’re both equipped with gold hardware, Seymour Duncan Classic Stack pickups (b/m/n), classic trems with full-sized blocks, no backplate (I did this first, John Mayer!), some foam from the Duncan pickup box under the springs, and Sperzel Locking tuners. I made Goldie’s body, but my #1 was an offcenter 2-piece alder body from Allparts. Goldie got extra lacquer love with the back of the neck painted, but leaving the rosewood stripe visible.

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At the moment those are the two I’m using but since Babydoll Warriors is still growing as a new band, I may need to pull out some of the other guitars I own from the vault, or build myself another custom-made guitar. Or since I’m always buying gear, it could be a new guitar. (I literally just bought two more guitars).

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My amp rig is set up as a pedal platform since I really can’t find a one-stop amp for all the sounds I need. For Babydoll Warriors’ debut show I used my 1×12” Dr. Z Maz 38 paired with a Dr. Z 2×10” extension cab. That one is also my #1 amp and if I had to sell all my amps, that would be the very last one to go. It’s a great mix between a Fender and a Vox. I got into Dr. Z after becoming infatuated with Brad Paisley’s guitar playing and gear. I was able to test a Maz 18 up in Seattle and ended up loving the amp’s preamp breakup when dimed and how clean it could run if the master and gain were flipped. A used, 38-watt version fell into my lap a few years later and it became love at first twang. It began as a blonde-colored amp, but there was bleed-thru with the tolex glue so after contacting Dr. Z, they referred me to their tolexing guy and I had it re-tolexed to look like a custom Dr. Z Mazerati amp in a Black with Red motif. It has a Eminence 12″ Texas Heat speaker. The 2x10s are stock Dr. Z speakers and I believe also Eminence. It was a beast to move as a mini-half stack, so for future shows, I may revert back to the amp I bought for the band.

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My actual amp I got for Babydoll Warriors is a Fender Blues Deluxe. I bought it as a chassis off eBay and was going to build a custom cabinet with gold tolex, but I saw a used cabinet with speaker for sale in LA about the cost of the speaker alone. Its a pine cabinet — super lightweight with wheat grill and burgundy tolex made by Mather Amp cabs. It was such a good deal for the cab plus the Jensen speaker that I opted to not go the gold tolex route and leave it as is. Even though it is larger than the Dr. Z, it is much lighter, so for future gigs, I’ll probably be using the Fender going forward. It’s currently at home with all of his amp-brothers awaiting a mod of metal input jacks, a faceplate-facelift, and a new set of JJ tubes.

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My pedals have gone thru a number of changes and at the moment I have this set up so it fits on this hoopty little board I built to specifically fit in this one bag. I realize basing your pedals on a bag to carry it in is probably the worst plan, but so far, it’s working.

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For the most part, my pedal need is tuner, low-gain overdrive into a Dumble-style overdrive, boost, tremolo, delay, reverb, and EQ. Currently, I use TC Electronic mini’s and a few Wampler pedals to make this happen. The Wampler Tumnus is a Klon clone and I always leave it on so that my cleans poke thru the mix and it gives a little gristle when you hit the strings harder. I recently changed from a Mad Professor Simble pedal to the Wampler Dual Fusion. It’s meant for those super technical sweep-picking fusion jazz guys so it’s a ridiculous pedal for our style, however it works for my needs on the songs. I had used the Wampler Euphoria for years as my main overdrive tone, and always paired it with a TS-style low gain pedal for boosting the gain on it. The Dual Fusion is essentially that in one box – a modded Euphoria and the Brad Paisley signature pedal (TS-esque, but based on the Trainwreck amp). The Paisley side I use as a solo boost and the Euphoria is my main overdrive. The effects are all TC Electronic and I use them because of size and their beam-in setting function. The Pipeline Tremolo is set for a fairly heavy square wave tremolo. The Hall of Reverb pedal uses a spring reverb patch, and the Flashback Delay uses a slapback patch. I have a number of other delays, reverbs, and tremolos, but I found these were pretty versatile because if the effect didn’t suit the song, I could beam a new setting using the app on my phone. Size also does matter on this board so the mini Flashback and HOF are a plus. The board is rounded out by a MXR 10-band EQ for fine-tuning the EQ spectrum. I found that it helped round out my Blues Junior amp and not make it sound boxy, so I kept it onboard for the Dr. Z and Fender Blues Deluxe. I might replace it with the Source Audio EQ since there are no sliders on that pedal and right now I have a piece of plastic protecting my sliders from being bumped. The second tier of the pedals sit on a hidden Voodoo Labs Pedal Power.

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I love your Strats. I’ve been craving a Strat again lately and I like that yours look so clean. Since there’s such a huge market right now “relic”-ing, what are your thoughts on it? Do you like the trend?

Dustin, I can build you one! Just let me know. 😉 As for relic-ing, I have mixed feelings about it. It definitely has the mojo look and with true artisans who can recreate it, it’s awesome. There is a science to understanding lacquer shrinking and expansion of lumber, cracking patterns, and how your body-interaction with the guitar creates the wear. So those builders that understand it, or have studied it, I think it’s cool. However now I’m rolling my eyes as it’s starting to be over the top with almost every company having a line of relic’d instruments. Relic-ing can also be lame if builders half-ass it or don’t even take into account actual wear and tear. I mean really, how long are your fingernails that you “relic” a circle around the knob? And ewww…

As a builder of guitars — what’s the one guitar build that is your dream project?

I would say a Benedetto archtop-style jazz guitar. It’s essentially the Stradivarius of guitars IMO. Each step a luthier takes to learn and refine their craft is in that direction. For years, I’ve done bolt-on Fender- style bodies and that’s relatively simple if you purchase a neck and have the woodworking tools. Building a flattop body is just like shaping a cookie with a cookie cutter – as long as measurements are “square” (perpendicular or parallel), then it’s fairly simple. You then move onto building necks, and then archtop electrics, like a Les Paul or PRS style. Eventually you learn kerfing and bracing and can build acoustics. The last step is learning to carve a 1″ piece of wood to be uniformly thin top with structural integrity…AND you don’t do it with $20 piece of maple from Home Depot, you do it with some expensive wood — the kind that hurts your soul if you mess up and that you apologize to the tree it came from — so skill is the utmost importance at that point. But I think that’s decades away for me, so when I can build out a Gibson Les Paul Custom without hesitation, I’ll feel like I’m at my high point.

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What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve ever owned? Conversely, what’s the best?

I usually do my research on stuff before I commit to buying it, so I don’t think of it as “worst,” but I did buy an Epiphone Dot flametop semi-hollowbody back in the early 2000s. It lasted a week with me and I returned it because the neck didn’t feel good to me. Best would be my 2003 Ruby Red PRS McCarty Rosewood that I got while in Divided By Zero. I’ve used it on every recording I’ve played guitar on since 2004 –whether it was a hard rock band, indie rock, or singer-songwriter. The low gain pickups can still push an amp or pedal to metal territory, or retain a sweetness through a low overdrive for bluesy singing. It’s my Swiss army knife. Actually its the same color as a Swiss army knife, haha. It’s still relevant to me tonally in the music I enjoy now, as was the music that I was into when I bought it 15 years ago.

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I know from stalking your Insta that you just picked a Silvertone “Chris Isaak” semi-hollowbody — tell me about that guitar.

Ha…yeah itchy eBay trigger finger. It’s a 1963 and its mostly all-original — I’m going to get a Bigsby and and a set of period-correct tuners for it. So the long story is I love hollowbodies and had a few that I loved but had to sell (Epiphone Casino, Sheraton, Dot, Gibson ES-137) and now only have the Gretsch White Falcon (yeah, yeah…woe is me with a White Falcon :P). I like the deep-body versions equally as much as the thinner-depth versions, and love hearing it through a clean amp with reverb. I was on the hunt for either an ES-330L (similar to the Casino which were full hollow, but the neck joins the body farther out) or the well-known semi-hollow ES-335, but newer models were outside of my price range, and vintage ones I could only dream of owning. I thought it was not a dream in grasp so I gave up on the search. Stephen El Rey opened our first show and his guitarist, Mike Butler, had this model. I immediately recognized it as the Silvertone Chris Isaak model — one that I had looked at years ago when I was in the market for Silvertone 1484 and 1432 amps — and mentally put it on my “to get” list. I went home that night and checked eBay and found this one, bid, and won it. I thought it would be a tough one to play, but it was set up awesomely and plays so easy.

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I love the logistical ease-of-use of your pedalboard — but if you could put together a board of your favorite 5-6 pedals EVER on a board of any size, what would you put on there?

Funny you should say size. I have four boards — the mini, the big one with the pedal switcher, the home version, and Babydoll Warrior’s board which borrowed a few pedals off the others. They are pretty simple and relatively the same set up. All have a low gain OD, higher gain OD, tremolo, delay, reverb. The two different overdrives give you a third tonal option when you stack them together. I like Dumble-style overdrives because I like sitting in the mix without fighting drum and bass frequencies. It’s mid-heavy but still has low and high frequencies, so whether you are in a band jamming or at home by yourself, it feels like the overdrive fills out the tonal spectrum. I found that most Dumble ODs on the market are exceptional, but the Wampler versions (Euphoria/Dual Fusion) do it for me. I am a fan of the Strymon Flint (tremolo and reverb), so if that counts as one pedal, I’m going to add a Dunlop Wah to the mix, haha. But if I had to roll into a guitar store to build or replace a pedalboard, I’d pick up either the Wampler Euphoria (or Suhr Riot if I needed metal tones), pair it with a Mad Professor Sweet Honey or Tubescreamer type, into a digital delay with tap tempo that does dotted eighths (like my Diamond Memory Lane Jr, or Wampler Doctor), Strymon Flint, and top it off with a TC Electronics tuner. I hate being out of tune so that’s probably the most important pedal.

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If Wampler approached you and wanted to build a signature James Albers pedal — what would it be, what features would it have, and what would you name it?

Ha! The guys at Wampler are awesome. Side story: those guys are from Indiana, so I used to bring them beers from San Diego breweries to the NAMM show every time I went to give them some SoCal beer love. I had listened to their older podcast religiously and grew to love all of the products they put out. On one of the podcast shows, Max Jeffrey was joked at because he was a fan of the fancy hipster beers, so I thought I would do something special for that one guy in Indiana that likes craft beer. The next NAMM, I brought him the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Stout and a Modern Times IPA. In the “NAMM episode” podcast he makes reference to it, so after years of going and bringing them limited release San Diego beer, I am now officially James “Beer Guy” Albers to them. So on that note, it would probably be a double overdrive pedal — a Tunmus (Klon style) into a modified Euphoria (Dumble OD) where the Tumnus side has the option of on/off or switches from a low gain (i.e. always on) to higher gain mode. No clue what I’d call it, but I guess appropriately it should have some reference to beer on it.

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Little-known fact: We actually first met each other years ago through Craigslist while trading each other pedals — what’s the one or two things gear-wise you regret getting rid of the most?

Yes! And other little known fact, we used to run into each other at the Normal Height’s Vons and have long conversations about gear in the meat and produce sections for extended periods of time. Haha. I am a bit ADD with my gear, so gear comes in and then goes out, and usually I’m fine with selling gear because it usually means getting something newer and cooler. But there are two that I know of that I can say “I wish I hadn’t sold it”. A few years back, I had to take time off work for a few months for disability. I ended up having to sell a number of my amps and a few guitars just to pay bills until the state caught up with back-filling paychecks. Most of them I made peace with in selling but one of the guitars I had to sell was a limited edition John Mayer Fender Stratocaster in Shoreline gold with a maroon racing stripe. Kicking myself for selling it because I can’t seem to find another now and all of his Fenders are going up in price due to him leaving for PRS. But in standard fashion, if I can’t find it (or afford it), I’ll build it. I decided to build myself a custom one out of swamp ash and purple heart, and hot rod it the way I always hot rod my guitars. The other was my second guitar I ever owned, a late-‘80s/early-‘90s black and gold Japanese Epiphone Les Paul Custom my mom bought me for my birthday for $200 used. The Japanese models featured a cooler Gibson-esque “open-book” headstock, and the craftsmanship probably rivaled Gibson’s in that era. It was my main guitar in high school. My logic (way back in 1994) was that if I sold it to my brother so I could buy this hard-to-find Ibanez Sabre S5407 seven string, then I could buy the LP back at some point. He ended up loaning it to friends in a band, who I believe sold it for weed. Sigh…

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To put you on the spot: I know you’re a fan of John Mayer and people talk about him like he’s the best thing since sliced bread in the guitar world. Who do you think is the best guitarist (or your favorite) alive in the game right now? (and you better not say Mayer or God help me)….

Haha, yeeeah, I’m a fan, but don’t judge me. I like John Mayer’s gear (Dumbles and vintage Strats, even that Powell Peralta Charvel!), his guitar licks, and his guitar experience, not the pomp and circumstance that follows him. But I digress… if I’m not putting in a John Mayer vote or any obvious “idol-worthy” guitarist, I would go with Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles. I grew up listening to U2’s “Joshua Tree” album and it was an eye-opening experience to hear texture applied to music from the guitar instead of just riffs and flashy scales. It eventually became something ingrained in my style and something I craved when listening to new music.

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(Photo credit: Rueven Tan)

Fast forward to recent years of trying to appreciate hard rock and metal again, a few bands I liked (for example I love Red Fang) but all the guitarists out there didn’t wow me on how fast they could play or what scales they knew, or how low they tuned their guitars. Enter Russian Circles — a three-piece instrumental hard rock band that just kicks ass. Mike Sullivan creates textures using loop pedals and live playing over the top, does two-hand tapping, chugs out massive stoner rock riffs, and does all of that within a single piece of music that still has melodic lines. I met him at NAMM last year at the Nik Huber booth and he was super nice and chatted with me and my buddy for a good 30 minutes. Check out “Carpe” and “Death Rides a Pale Horse” from their first album “Enter”.

Dustin and Jennifer Lothspeich Wedding Ceremony and Reception - October 9, 2016

(Photo credit: Alex Matthews)

You’ve seen a ton of bands play in town and I know you’re like me and scope out what everyone’s using — who do you admire the most, gear-wise?

Well, I haven’t caught everyone yet, so I could easily change this answer…but one person I’ve recently nerded out with is Ian Owen of Oh Spirit and who plays in a number of the Redwoods Collective bands like Midnight Pine and Dani Bell & The Tarantist — all bands who I enjoy seeing play. Ian is another Dr. Z Maz amp user so we bonded on that originally, but he’s also got an awesomely cool pedalboard of boutique pedals that make you go “oooh, what’s that pedal?”. Our last conversation was about his recent acquisition — a Satellite Amp which he is gleaming over. Satellite amps are from San Diego and on my list of amps to get at some point — support local! Ian is not only super friendly but he took the time to nerd out with me, and that’s something I respect guitarist to guitarist. Also there are guitarists out there that make guitar playing sound so good and seem so effortless, and he’s one of them.

If money was no object, and you could buy any piece of equipment on the planet for one of your bandmates, what would you buy and who would you get it for?

Well, our drummer Kevin is in need of a drumset. The one he’s been using is cool, but belongs to a friend, so he needs one of his own. I would probably try to track down a cool looking vintage one with the weird drum wraps, like one of those old Ludwigs or Gretsches in sparkle white or oyster blue. But likely, Emily would chime in and say “get one in gold!” so I probably would end up getting a Champagne gold sparkle drumset.

Since I know you’re a beer guy: If Babydoll Warriors had their own beer — what style would it be, what name would you give it, and who would you want to brew it?

I love IPAs and recently the hazy IPAs, but my original love of craft beer was Belgians. So I guess appropriately it should be a Golden Belgian Ale. As for who, I would probably be most excited if Mikkeller, Amplified Ales (who did Low Volts’s beer recently), or if Modern Times did it, however there are a number of awesome breweries in San Diego, so I would not be unhappy with any local brewery doing it. If we aren’t talking local, Unibroue from Quebec — the Maudite and La Fin Du Monde have been some of my favorites for a while, so I figure they’d be a good option. They specialize in Belgian style, and it’d give the Megadeth beer a run for it’s money! Agh …naming … hardest thing ever. I would probably be lame and just call it “The Golden Babydoll Warrior Belgian.” Golden Babydoll Warriors used to be our original band name before we shortened it, so it would be good to put it back in use.

What’s coming up next for Babydoll Warriors?

We are scheduled to play The Merrow on Tuesday (July 10th) this week and Vinyl Junkies at the South Park walkabout later in July. The response to us from just our one show has been awesome so we’re taking it all in and trying to be strategic but move quickly. The next item of business for us is to get the songs we have recorded and put out either an EP or the full-length before the end of the summer.

EVER DE LA ROSA / POLUX

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Polux: Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Website

1. Tell me about the stuff in these photos: brands/models, etc. Are you using all this stuff live, or is this for recording too? Is there anything you’re not stoked on that you might be replacing, or adding soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig?

My rig is used for both recording and live playing, except for the Strat that I only use on recordings on certain songs and to jam at home.

Pedalboard:

1. Joyo PXL8 Effects Loop Router
2. Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine
3. Two TC Electronic Flashback Delays
4. TC Electronic Ditto Mini Looper
5. Boss TR-2 Tremolo
6. Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
7. Electro Harmonix LPB-1 Booster
8. 1985 made in Japan Boss DS-1 Distortion
9. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

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The only thing I want to replace on this pedalboard would be the Ditto Looper; I want to get the newer Ditto Looper X2 that has separate footswitches to stop and play a loop instead of the mini one where you have to click a couple of times to stop and re-record with the same footswitch. Being the only guitar player in Polux, it will make it a lot easier to play with sounds and ambient noise.

I can’t live without the Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine, the Boss CH-1 Super Chorus and the Tube Screamer — they are the base of my sound at this moment.

Guitars:

1. Fender Jaguar upgraded with ’62 Pure Vintage American Jaguar pickups and a modified Mustang bridge.

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2. Custom build Strat, painted by me with 1980s American Stratocaster pickups and a custom build neck.

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Amp:

Kustom ’36 Coupe Tube amp, made in USA

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2. Which guitar do you like more? The Strat or the Jaguar? And why???

Currently the Jaguar, the scale length I do find a bonus, and the neck profile is beautiful, love the sustain and the overall sound, I always use the same pickup settings (lead circuit with lead and rhythm on and mid tone cut off) and have taped the switches so I don’t accidentally engage them while playing (hahaha), works awesome.

The Strat I use it to jam at home mostly, to get ideas rolling, it’s the one always resting on the stand ready to be picked up.

I also have an Epiphone Les Paul with upgraded pickups, I put a single coil on the neck and a humbucker on the bridge. The sound is interesting to say the least, but not for what I’m doing now, but who knows, maybe for the next album, I’ll get that sucker out and experiment.

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3. What are a couple of your particular favorite pedals that you can’t do without – and explain why? Are there any pedals you have your eye on?

The Electro Harmonix Superego Synth Engine and the Boss Super Chorus with the Flashback delay (need to add an extra pedal here), I love those 3 combined, love the ambient sound you can get with the Superego — it’s a subtle synth, that goes just a bit long and the Super Chorus gives it that sweet spot, throw in that delay and you have this ethereal sound, still sounding like a guitar but with a dreamy tripping sound, for us as a trio, musically covers a lot of dead spots that sometimes are not needed.

I want to try the Electro-Harmonix Synth9, I think it would go well with our current vibe, also the Thermae by Chase Bliss as well as the Empress Zoia — this last one is getting all my attention right now, can’t wait to get my hands on that one; it’s supposed to be available in the Fall, so we’ll see…

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4. Let’s talk about that Kustom amp: When and where did you get it? Does it give you any issues being an older amp? Have you tried other amps? Why do you like this one the most?

It’s a funny story, I actually owned a Fender Super 112 Red Knob, that has to be the worst amp I ever owned, at least for me. I could never dial in the sound I wanted, so I put it up for sale about three years ago on OfferUp, after a month or so, some dood send me an email asking if I was interested in a trade. I guess he had been looking for the Super 112 for a while (no idea why, lol), he said he had a 2005 Kustom Coupe 36 to exchange. At the time, I was interested in getting a Fender ’65 Twin Reverb 85-watt 2×12″ so I was hesitant, but took the chance and went to see the Kustom amp.

As soon as I started testing the amp, I was blown away by the sound, the sound on this thing is first rate — it ranges from clean through great tube distortion, has an enjoyable, ballsy midrange overdrive sound and respectable fat rhythm/clean tone, all-tube sound, not a hybrid. One of the coolest things about this amp is the reverb has a tone on it! There is a direct out (low Z) with a direct volume as well. And it looks awesome!

No issues whatsoever, this thing is solid.

I am currently looking for a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus to add to my gear, love the clean sound on that amp.

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5. If money was no object and you could buy any piece of gear for one of your bandmates, what would you buy them and why?

I would probably get Albert a Ludwig Breakbeats Series drumset. It’s compact, has a cool punchy sound and we can carry that sucker easily to all the gigs, haha.

I wouldn’t want to leave Luis out, so I would get him a Fender Rumble Stage 800. Has a ton of features, one that I like the most is that you can have presets and you can easily navigate them in between songs. And of course, it’s super easy to carry around.

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6. What’s the worst piece of gear you’ve bought and why did it suck? On the flipside, what’s the raddest piece of gear you’ve bought and why is it so great?

The worst has definitely been a Boss Metal Zone pedal given to me like eight years ago — that’s the worst pedal ever invented (for my taste at least, haha).

The raddest so far has definitely been my Electro Harmonix Superego pedal — that opened a ton of ideas and experimentation for me. To date, I keep playing with settings and I can always get something different.

7. What’s coming up for Polux?

We have a gig this Friday, June 8, at The Merrow; we signed with C&R Music Group for management to start getting gigs in Mexico City and Hispanic gigs in San Diego; and we are also currently recording the last two songs for our album coming out in August, together with our music video for our single “1984.” We are trying to get more into the Latino rock scene as well after pretty much hitting almost every cool spot in San Diego.

 

PETER DUFF / HARD TO HIT

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Hard to Hit: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website

1. Hey Peter, talk me through your live rig: Why is that Mesa amp your No. 1? I’m surprised not to see any modulation or delay/reverb effects on your board. What else would you add if you had the option? 

I decided to go with the Mesa 5:25 Express + for live for a few reasons. First and foremost, it just sounds the best for the kinds of heavy (but not too heavy) tones I’m going for, but also because of its flexibility and because it packs a ton of features into a head that will be easy to move around and keep in good shape. It has enough foot-switchable options that I was able to keep my pedalboard simple, which was important to me because for this band I decided I wanted to be able to focus more on playing and having a good time than setting up a complicated rig, and having extra patch cables, etc. to worry about. In addition to switching between a high and low-gain channel, it also lets me have foot-switchable reverb, two foot-switchable EQs per channel (the graphic EQ and the preset EQ knob which is a nice sounding midscoop) and also a foot-switchable boost. All that saves me 3 or 4 pedals on my board, which means I can keep it small in the one briefcase and I don’t have to use the effects loop since everything on the board is in front of the amp so that’s fewer cables to have to set up, trip over, or break.

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I didn’t bother with modulation, delay, or pedal reverb on this board because as of right now, the songs we’re playing don’t really call for it. There’s definitely a few spots where I would normally use my Carbon Copy a little bit, but not so much that I wanted to add the complexity or the tap dancing. I could definitely see changing it up and adding the Carbon Copy, Timeline, and Moore modulation pedal in the future if we end up using more effects for our next album. In which case I’d think about finding a smaller volume pedal, tuner, and/or power supply to free up some space.

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2. How did you settle on both an SG and a Tele?

All our songs right now are in drop D except one in drop C, so I’m using the Tele for the bulk of them and the SG for the one drop C song. Ironically, the Tele is the cheapest guitar I own, but somehow it just feels the best to play; the weight and balance is nice, the neck is fast, and I like the look of it. I swapped out the stock Fender humbucker in the bridge for a Seymour Duncan SH4JB and it sounds great. The SG handles the lower tuning the best out of all my guitars and it’s my second favorite, so it was an obvious choice.

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3. Out of all the effects you used on the record, which one got the most use and why? Were there any other effects you wish you had on-hand that you would’ve used?

The other pedals that got used the most on the record were the Tube Screamer and EQ. They were on pretty much the whole time, pushing our other guitar player’s amp a bit more for one of the main guitar tracks. I think I used a little Carbon Copy and reverb from the Strymon Blue Sky here and there, but for the most part, our guitar tones are pretty much straight-forward gain.

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4. Talk to me about the extra amps in this pic…what’d you use ’em for?

The other amps are a 1964 Ampeg Jet J-12, Peavey 6505 Mini Head, and Fender ’94 Twin (not to be confused with a Twin Reverb, this one has two drives that are actually pretty cool). I was planning on using the Peavey for the main guitar doubles, but our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX won out. I actually used the Fender for all the leads since its drive has a nice mid-range bite that compliments the mid-scooped Mesa and Peavey well. The Ampeg unfortunately didn’t make it onto the EP since I mainly use it for cleans or light bluesy drive, but it gets used in the studio all the time.

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5. You guys have a new EP coming out — how did the recording process go? Who did you work with and where did you record it? 

In addition to playing in the band, I’m actually a full-time professional engineer, so I recorded most of it at my studio: The Grey Brick Recording Studio. Two of the songs were recorded up at Catacomb in Orange County last year before I joined the band, but we ended up making some changes to those songs so the only part of those recordings we really kept was the drums; everything else for the five songs I recorded, mixed, and mastered.

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6. If you got to buy ANY piece of gear for one of your band mates, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard one since we’ve all got our rigs pretty well dialed in right now. Our bass player just got a new P-Bass and has a great Amgeg SVT and cab, our other guitar player’s Peavey XXX and Tele sound great, and our drummer just refinished his kit. Really the best thing for the band would probably be nice in-ear monitors. I just got some Shure SE315s which are awesome and some of the other guys are just using normal earbuds. Not the sexiest answer, but hearing protection is important, kids!

7. Besides the EP release show at SOMA on Friday, December 1st, what else does Hard to Hit have coming up?

The release is definitely the biggest news, it’s been almost a year since Hard to Hit has played because of some changes to the lineup and we decided to just focus on the EP before getting back out on stage, so this will actually be the first show back with the new lineup. We will also be releasing a video the same day. The following weekend, we will be doing a short run up to Bakersfield, Grover Beach, and one other city that’s still TBD. We will have another local show in February and we’re planning on a bigger West Coast tour for March.

RORY MORISON / THE BAD VIBES

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The Bad Vibes: Facebook / Bandcamp

1.Take me through your pedalboard: What are you using and what are your favorite pedals?

We got the Vox Wah Wah, the MXR Bad Ass Distortion, the Death By Audio Apocalypse, Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter, Empress Tremolo, Earthquaker Devices Transmissor, and last but not least, the TC Electronic Flashback Delay. I’m definitely a delay junky so that Flashback gets me a lot of mileage, especially because I can navigate my way through three different settings so quickly with that pedal. However, that being said, more than any specific pedal, I’m more into what certain combinations can get me sonically. It’s taken me a while but I’ve found a balance in the possibilities on this board and most of the time, I have more than one running.

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2. That’s a beauty of a Gretsch: What made you want to play that particular guitar? 

First and foremost, I’ve always been a huge Neil Young fan. Always loved loved the brittle rust tone he gets out of the White Falcon. I’ve owned other Gretsch guitars but this one I got out of necessity because my trusty Epiphone Les Paul was on the fritz and I couldn’t get it fixed before some upcoming shows. She’s certainly a beauty with some real bedroom eyes! The feel on the neck and her body are great but her personality is kind of hard to deal with (certainly a reoccurring story in my life). She has that Gretsch twang but bites more than any I’ve ever played. For Bad Vibes, I find myself dialing back the high end on the amp to keep the midrange of my tone while trying not to lose the personality of the guitar. It basically makes me dig in on the action if I want that bite — which isn’t too hard since I lack any finesse as a player.

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3. That pedalboard is seriously impressive: Talk to me about that Death By Audio pedal — what does it do and what do you use it for?

Fuck man, that pedal is fucking nuts — it’s a touchy touchy pedal that has to be readjusted every time it comes out the case. Basically it has five fuzz circuits that you can select from and then a tone knob that shifts the frequency. Live, I mainly use what they call the Gainiac setting at two o’clock for riffs on “Cathedrals” and on call-and-response solos that take place on a new song called “The Tower.”

4. What’s a Bad Vibes song that you think really showcases your gear?

Most definitely “Vultures”: I think I use every single pedal on that song, which seems fitting since it’s our rock opera/war dance.

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5. Talk to me about the new album: What makes it special to you?

This is the band’s first record and we are putting it out on Daniel Cervantes’ (Mrs. Henry, Creature and the Woods) label, Blind Owl. Its special for many reasons but as an individual, I’ve never been able to focus long enough to put a record together, so there’s a sense of accomplishment and fear in that. For the band, we’ve been through a whole lot of struggles, smiles and cries, freedoms and arrests — you know, life — during the making of this album, which is why it gets the title No One’s Safe. This music is the result of that wild ride and it was recorded at Le Chateau de Bad Vibes, a house long
known for hosting parties till 9 a.m. involving fireworks, impromptu jams and what the Latin community would call “convivios.” The songs are embalmed in that energy and remind me of wonderful and horrible times in my life. The songs have changed a lot and continue to do so, but I think we will relish this moment, take a breath and continue on in a new direction.

6. With No One’s Safe dropping on Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Casbah — what’s next for you guys?

We’ve already started work on a new EP being recorded and engineered straight to tape by Jordan Andreen over at Audio Design. We will be playing hometown shows but really trying to get out of town by doing small one-off weekend tours followed by an extensive one in late fall/early winter. We also have plans to begin recording the second album in collaboration with Mr. Andreen and Mr. Cervantes as co-producers. We are also most immediately thankful to you and everyone that has helped us along the way — come take intoxicants with us and dance naked or clothed… please… now… don’t make me ask again.

GARRETT PRANGE / EXASPERATION

Exasperation: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

1. Tell me about your gear: What do you use the most and why? Are you playing both bass and guitar in Exasperation? Or just one?

The guitar I play most at this point is the early 2000s MIJ Jazzmaster, I just bought it a couple months ago so I’m really still just breaking it in. The Fender Bullet has become the back-up these days, but I have a lot of love for that guitar and it may one day reclaim its place. As far as the basses go, I am first and foremost a bass player and have played bass in pretty much every band I have been in in the past, but in Exasperation, I’m relinquishing those duties, although I will still have fingerprints on the recording of the bass, or how it will be recorded.

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2. That Traynor is pretty damn spiffy. When did you get it and how it is different than other amps?

Let me preface this question by stating that I love unusual gear, and obviously the sonic quality/character is very important, but I will almost always be drawn to something for how it looks before I investigate how it plays or sounds. I think the Traynor is a perfect example of that; it’s a 1973 YBA-4 Bassmate combo amp — its pretty much the Canadian answer to the Marshall Plexi; super clean and chimey, although a bit darker tone-wise than the Marshall, and fucking loud as hell. The amp has no overdrive channel and no reverb, which I actually really like because it allows you to have a really dialed-in clean tone that you can spice up with your pedal setup.

As you know, back in that time period, the line between what was a guitar or bass amp was pretty blurry. Being able to play both guitar and bass through it, and also having it be in a smaller combo format (easier for dragging around to gigs) checked off all the boxes for me. As of now, it’s not a really expensive vintage amp, and it is really easy for an amp tech to work on apparently.

Another huge factor for me was that I love the band Women; they are a huge influence on my songwriting and playing style and their guitar tones and song structures are just the perfect and hauntingly beautiful marriage between melody and noise. I saw that their guitarist Christopher Reimer (RIP) played through a Traynor combo amp, and that made me very interested in finding one for myself.

The thing about old amps though…they tend to break down. The first show I played through it, I was playing bass and I blew the power tubes out on the second to last song, the amp just shut off and the ominous smell of burning electronics had me cursing under my breath, haha. That was an easy fix, but then I blew out the speaker recording the guitars for our two-song EP a couple of months later. I replaced the speaker with a Weber California Ceramic 15″ speaker, and since then, no problems. *knock on wood*

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3. What the hell is that weird Fender guitar? I have no idea what model that even is! Give me the backstory!

That is a Fender Bullet! It’s a student model guitar that was meant to replace the Mustang after production was phased out in the late 70s. I like to think of it as the weird love child between a Tele and a Strat. It has a metal pickguard that the bridge saddles are actually attached to, so in a sense the pickguard is actually a part of the bridge; super weird. I believe mine is from ’80 or ’81. They changed the body shape to look like a Strat in later productions of it, and I think nowadays if they even still make them, they are all Squiers. It sounds and plays great and I love how beat up it is. I usually play completely on the neck pickup cause it has a little more oomph, but if I want to do my best Gang of Four impression with a real harsh ‘shards of glass’-like tone, the bridge pickup definitely does the trick.

4. Between the P-bass and the Rick, which do you like playing more and why?

The Rick plays more like a guitar than a bass; super fast/low action and a skinny neck with a much more mid-rangy tone. I absolutely love the sound and look of it, but it’s from 1976, which means I’d be super nervous to take it out on the road with me. I have had the P-bass for longer, and in that sense I am more used to playing it. It has a really wide maple neck that makes it super punchy and it is heavier overall then the Rick, which factors into playability over long stretches. I love the simplicity of only having one pickup in it as well. It’s a hard choice and some might consider it blasphemy but I’m gonna have to go with the P-bass.

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5. That pedalboard is sick. I’ve always wanted an EDQ Sea Machine – does it do like a subtle chorus as well as really warbly stuff?

Thanks Dude! I’m not really what you would call a “Pedal Guy,” but there are certain tones I like that I try my best to either emulate or make my own through what I have. The Sea Machine is rad, I really love chorus-y tones and this pedal is definitely an integral part to my overall guitar sound. I use it in a pretty understated way, but with six different controls on the pedal, you can really dial in a lot of warbly weirdness with it. Dave (Mead, our drummer) likes to call my guitar tone ‘Evil Andy Summers,’ which in a lot of ways is the coolest compliment anyone could give you.

6. Which Exasperation song are you most stoked to play live and why?

This may be a bit of a cop-out answer, but since everything is so new, I’m gonna say all of them! Although I really do like playing the two songs we have recorded: “Not Feeling Great” and “Million Points of Light.” You can check ‘em out on our Bandcamp page.

7. If you could get one piece of gear for Dave and money was no object, what would you get and why?

I would buy Dave an OG clear Ludwig Vistalite kit — not in those huge John Bonham-esque sizes though. Perfect balance of volume and tone, and they look cool as hell.

8. What’s next for Exasperation?

Impose Magazine just debuted our two-song EP, Points of Light, (check it out here) and we are in the thick of recording a proper full length completely ourselves, which has its benefits and drawbacks. I love recording/producing and overall it has been a super fun process so far. We are shooting for 10-12 songs and are about halfway through basic tracking at this point. We also have a few shows coming up, the soonest being on March 29th at Soda bar with Methyl Ethel (tickets available here), followed by April 22nd at Bar Pink with our local buds Dream Burglar, and then way off in the distance we are playing at the Hideout (I guess its gonna be called SPACE now?) on June 9th with Merchandise and B-Boys.

J. ADAM WILLIAMS / THE LOWLAND DRIFTERS

The Lowland Drifters: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud

1. How would you describe your band’s sound.

We are trying to bridge spaghetti Western music with aggressive garage-rock and slight hints of surf. The lyrics all take place in some dying desert trailer-park town…our modern-day version of  ghost towns. It’s pretty dark, lyrically… almost pulp/noir. Imagine Breaking Bad meets The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. We have experimented with calling it “Doom Western”… not settled on that yet.

2. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: Is there anything you’re not stoked on that you might be replacing soon? Anything that will always be a fixture in your rig? 

My ADINEKO from Catalinbread is not the most used effect I have, but it is my favorite… a beautiful soupy analog delay. It was modeled after the old oilcan delay tech from the ‘70s. It modulates in sync with the delay rate and has multiple “delay heads” that allow you to have a mix of reverb and delay in the same effect. Very unique sounding and I don’t think I could ever live without it.

The SPARK BOOST is a great all-purpose boost. Want a Tubescreamer? Flip the switch up and cut your bass and treble. Want just a straight boost? Switch in the middle, giant taste and it will sound just like your straight signal but louder. I have even gotten a setting or two that hint at Vox cleans. Stupid amounts of signal boost on tap and a nice light overdrive.

FENDER VIBRO KING: I wanted this amp for so long it isn’t even funny. I like 10-inch speakers. They just seem more focused in a multi-guitar band.
I used to have a Twin and it was too heavy and I never could get it past two on the volume. This amp is still ungodly loud, but it is manageable and has a nice tonal balance.

The Zoom ME-100 is a great little all-purpose noisemaker. I use it for tremolo, acoustic, and when I want to push the reverb over the top.

I have a homemade phaser from B.Y.O.C. – it sometimes is a little finicky…I need to get in there one day and reflow solder.

The Greenhouse NoBrainer is an interesting high gain pedal. Lots of control over shaping of the mids and highs, but it always felt not as tight in the bass as I’d like. I don’t use this much in the current material, so it is prolly going to leave the board soon.

3. I’ve gotta ask: What’s the little button on the Tele by the pickup?

A kill switch I put in from my ‘60s freakbeat phase.. I still use it on occasion. That guitar has taken 10 years of my obsession with tinkering and mods. Including a new neck from USA Custom guitars.

I also have a small switch by my volume that taps my custom-wound bridge pickup from Cavalier Pickups. He makes fantastic pickups at a very reasonable price and quick turnaround for a custom winder. It gives me the all-important twang.

4. If you had to point someone to a song of yours that showcased your sound/style the best, what would it be?

“Johnny Law,” an instrumental and “Left Behind,” a murder ballad about a town sheriff who’s lost his hope and sanity. We are currently finishing mixes on these and they should be up on our pages in a few weeks.

“Cowtown” is an early demo we have that also shows where we are headed. It’s about a midnight robbery gone horribly wrong.

5. If money was no object, what is the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d get? 

Holy Grail… Hmm… I guess if we are talking big-ticket items, the only thing I’d really pine for is a  Fender “White Chicken”. It’s when you merge a Gretsch White Falcon and a Telecaster. Tele shape with a carved top. White paint, gold hardware, Bigsby Tremelo, etc. It’s not an official Fender thing, although the custom shop has made a few.

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A 3×10 bandmaster wouldn’t suck either. And a pony…I want a pony.

6. What’s coming up for The Lowland Drifters?

We are finishing mixing work on a 5-song EP and gearing up for more gigs in the San Diego area.

The Lowland Drifters play The Merrow on Tuesday, July 26 with Bighorn Run and Corina Rose. RSVP here to get in for free.

DANIEL CORRALES / PRGRM

PRGRM: Website | Bandcamp | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Daniel Corrales: Producer / bassists / synths

1. Tell me about your current rig: My live rig with PRGRM consists of two parts: a live bass rig and a live electronics section where I sub-mix sequences, synths and vocoders.

For my bass rig, I’m currently using a 4-string Musicman Sub Bass. I used to own more bass guitars but unfortunately, those got stolen years ago. Personally, I love the Sub Bass for both touring and recording environments; you can produce some sweet sounds with it and I don’t have to worry about it getting banged up a little here and there. One thing I initially didn’t like about it was its physical appearance, therefore I modified it by covering it entirely in black spray paint (it use to be garnet with a silver pickguard, I know dude, eww).

As my main amp, I usually use an Ampeg SVT Classic paired with an Ampeg 4×10 cab, but the SVT Classic is at the shop. As a replacement, I’m using an Ampeg BA-115 combo. I wouldn’t compare it to the SVT Classic but it’s great for touring as well, it’s compact and powerful enough for live settings, plus it also has its own D.I. output. The SVT Classic can project a beast tone but also has the downfall of weighing a ton! I’m really considering keeping it in the studio after I get it back. Either that, or pairing it with a smaller cab.

My pedalboard consists of a Boss TU-2 tuner, Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff Pi, TC Electronic Corona Chorus pedal, and the Pro-Co Rat. My main tone comes from the Rat and Corona pairing. I usually bring in the Muff when I want parts to sound fatter and aggressive, or just want to annoy someone. The only thing I would change about my pedalboard is replacing that Bass Big Muff with the British version for guitar.

For the live electronic section, I’m using: a Mackie 12FX 12-Channel Mixer to sub-mix, a MacBook Pro (Logic X) to run the sequence, a Korg Pad-Kontrol to trigger the sequence, and a Micro-Korg for synths.

I’m thinking of running our sequence some other way, or through Ableton, I don’t know, something that allows more live interaction. An extra pair of hands maybe? Can I use my?…oookkay, moving on.

Every part of my rig is always a work progress, and is subject to change depending on whatever the band/project needs. These are some of the effects pedals that I’ve been looking into adding to my rig: MXR Carbon Copy Delay, Pro-Co Turbo Rat, Sans Amp D.I. Driver, some kind of bass compressor, and a proper pedalboard/case.

2. What song of yours (or your band’s) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style? The song “Hourglass” would the best portrayal of my sound. A slightly overdriven and modulated tone is noticeable from the beginning of the song. That tone stays the same until the end, when the electric bass changes into a synth line. This arrangement idea is heard in other PRGRM songs too.

3. If money was no object, what’s the ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you’d buy? There is all this gear that could fit that description. For this I would say a vintage Rickenbacker Jetglo Bass, black finish with all cream bindings on the body and neck, large triangular pearl inlays, and the original black layer pickguard.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. I admire him for different reasons, but I really love how he is all over the place and constantly changing styles, he is a multi-instrumentalist, and he also scored a creepy soundtrack to one of my favorite films, There Will Be Blood.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? We have a couple of pretty exciting shows coming up this week. We play with The Fever (from Germany) and Badabing on Thursday, March 10, at The Merrow. [Go here for more info.]

Our label Beta/Noise.Records is also promoting a night for Summer Twins’ (Burger Records) tour on Sunday, March 13, at Tommy’s Casino in El Centro, CA. PRGRM and The Regrettes are also scheduled to perform that night. [Go here for more info.]

After that, we have another date scheduled in San Diego on March 26 at The Ken Club, with The Slashes, Blood Ponies, and The Foreign Resort. [Go here for more info.]